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Telepool brings back Yoko Higuchi-Zitzmann as CEO, targets more coproductions

Telepool, part of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s US production shingle Westbrook, has appointed Pantaleon Films’ Yoko Higuchi-Zitzmann as CEO, marking her return to the company after 14 years.

Yoko Higuchi-Zitzmann

Higuchi-Zitzmann will re-join Telepool, one of Germany’s leading distributors, on March 1, having previously worked there as head of sales and acquisitions in 2009.

The exec most recently served as MD of Pantaleon Films and previously held senior production and licensing roles at Studio Hamburg Production Group and Constantin Film.

As CEO of Telepool, Higuchi-Zitzmann will be responsible for all business areas including content development, co-financing and coproduction activities, as well as sales and distribution.

Telepool, owner of distributor Global Screen and home entertainment label EuroVideo, was acquired by Westbrook in December 2021. The US company appointed the then Telepool CEO Jan Frouman to lead a new division, Westbrook International Holdings, and Frouman has since left to join Chernin Entertainment’s North Road.

“Yoko Higuchi-Zitzmann brings over 25 years of extensive, excellent experience in both international and domestic licence trading, theatrical distribution and TV sales, as well as the production of theatrical films and high-end series to Telepool,” said Ko Yada, CEO of Westbrook.

“As CEO of Telepool, Yoko will build on the already impressive achievements of the Telepool team to bring international film and TV titles to German-speaking Europe and to exploit local content internationally. She will expand Telepool’s development and production activities and further Westbrook’s development in European markets in building a leading independent global content studio. We are delighted to have found in Yoko a CEO who shares our vision of connecting people worldwide through globally successful storytelling.”

Higuchi-Zitzmann added: “We will strengthen the link between the two companies and, with the help of Telepool’s enormous sales and distribution infrastructure, strengthen Westbrook’s presence in the international content market.

“Telepool, with its nearly 60-year history of world-class storytelling, is one of the most respected names in international sales and German-language licensing. As CEO, it will be my job to drive the growth of the group with a top content supplier like Westbrook as a shareholder. For me, that means – in addition to the core business of licence trading –further expanding and dynamising new, growing business areas such as coproductions and content development.”

Pantaflix CEO Nicolas Paalzow expressed his regret at Higuchi-Zitzmann’s departure and said: “During her time as MD of Pantaleon Films, Yoko launched important initiatives and set important impulses, especially in the development of new material, from which we will benefit in the coming months. Now we are losing a highly professional and humanly appreciated colleague. But we accept and understand her wish – after years on the producer side – to switch back to distribution, and therefore wish her only the very best for her professional future.”


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